Monday, April 5, 2010

Back To School

While researching the field of ICT4D, setting up my web sites and helping some small projects I decided also to go back to school. I had a 2 years university degree from Italy (on software for telecommunication) and found a way to integrate those credits towards an online Bachelor of Science. With the Empire State College I was able to craft my degree and my plan of studies towards an ICT4D degree. The title of the degree earned in 2009 is "Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainable Development" (although a late discussion still didn't allow me to change it to "Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainable International Development").
As I explain in one of my paper (not finished yet) I believe that definitions are important and the addition of "International" to my degree title meant to highlight the real focus of the sustainable development that interest me most.
In any case, even in the few mandatory general education courses I was able to touch on ICT4D aspects or most often, as I discovered along the way, topics of "development economics". A couple of the most relevant papers written during my studies are ICT4SustainableDevelopment and ICT for Sustainable International Development.
The four years of undergraduate school have hone my research and studying skills, forced me to write some papers but also kept me busy and prevented me to focus more on the ICT4D subject.
During these years all my personal motivations and ethical/professional reasons that stimulate me to work for more and better ICT for Development have not diminished.
My intent to research, write, discuss and involve people on the ICT4D vision is still alive. I will keep posting on this blog most ideas and accomplishments and continue to work to bring a positive impact.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Initial search

Since 2002 I started to seriously search for some no-profit organization that would be able to use my IT skills to benefit international development projects. Although my official main expertise is in the financial industry I can fruitfully contribute to IT systems for many different sectors. And since then I did some thinking and analysis to verify that indeed IT is (can be) employed in a variety of sector to support and facilitate many functions. Especially thinking of international development (on which I also will share some thoughts) come to my mind sector like education, healthcare and other public services, microfinance, social and cultural inclusion, human and labor rights and more. Functionally IT can be used for investigate needs, planning, delivery and monitor of services as well as facilitate the interconnection of people and organizations.
Thus, who, which no-profit organization wouldn't benefit from a free hand on understanding better and maybe implementing some IT system to make their mission more effective or reach a broader constituency?
IT is became so pervasive not only in the cutting edge industries that surely from the United Nations down to other large international organizations (like Oxfam, Care, Red Cross, Amnesty International, etc...) must have someone focusing on this subject. Disappointingly, no, from my research only the United Nations in its vastity was (at that time) having a sporadic interest in IT for Development (IT4D). IT4D that only became a bit famous as ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) and as a sub topic of the Global Digital Divide (international unequal access to ICT). With the linking of the Global Digital Divide (GDD) to the Millennium Development Goals there has been a flourish of activities by a growing number of individuals and organizations on a few aspects of the GDD and ICT4D, mostly aimed at assessing the situation, proposing policies and some technologies to facilitate Internet and mobile phones access in developing countries.
Despite this proliferation of labels and activities, I was still thinking that nobody was interested or willing to analyze and discuss some technological and strategic ideas to bring about a practical approach for more and better IT4D.
My volunteer applications to the UN and a few other organizations were turned down with messages like "... at this moment there is not need of your skills..." and never been contacted afterwards as if IT was something completely unecessary.
That's when I decided to try to start an organization that could be a way for professionals to encounter, discuss and coordinate IT4D projects. Despite some significant effort DigitalRight and Programmers Without Frontiers did not achieved (yet) this mission goals. This blog is an additional tool to try to spread some ideas and encourage some discussion around this critical aspects of an equitable sustainable international development.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How it started

Several years ago (2002) I realized that I wanted to really do some volunteer work to help "developing countries" to accelerate their socio-economic development. For most of my life I admired doctors, engineers, teachers and other professionals going to under developed countries helping to provide basic needs of the poor populations.
Since I'm not a doctor or don't have particularly advanced skills to build a water system I was wondering what I could do to bring my contribution. Sure, there are always low skilled manual tasks to do, but, I thought there has to be something more valuable that I can do. Then is when I started thinking that if indeed many companies are willing to pay more than $1000 a day for my service, that must be something useful.
Thus, I set off to find ways to employ this highly payed skills for free for some meaningful cause. Moreover, a quick practical and useful additional thought, I can do this volunteer activity comfortably from home at any free time!
That looked like something very smart, fairly easy and definitely of significant value!
Not that easy, not that quick though. It has been several years and I'm still very far from having achieved what I set off for.
Aside from very few and small projects these years of investigation of this interesting subject have brought me more frustrations and confusion than satisfaction and achievements.
Confusion starts with the many labels and definitions that many subjects in the field try to compete with.
Frustration starts with the consideration that many important aspects of this field are missed from theoretical dissertations as well as practical approach.
And frustration is fueled by the impossibility to find a working organization that can leverage the skills and availability of probably many professionals like me.